Building Woody Joe’s 1/72-scale Kitamaebune Kit – Part 7

The Tenmasen

This Woody Joe kit does not include a tenmasen, which is the small ship’s boat used for transferring crew and cargo to and from the ship, but neither did their Higaki-kaisen kit. The tenmasen is normally carried across the deck, atop the kappa, which is the small forward cabin where ropes and sails are stored. They are used by the Higaki-kaisen as well as the Kitamaebune.


Image from a Tokyo Maritime Science Museum book on bezaisen such as the Higaki Kaisen and Kitamaebune. Note the tenmasen forward of the open main deck.

Up to now, all the tenmasen I’ve seen illustrated have been pretty heavily constructed boats, propelled using one or two ro, or sculling oars. In contrast, the tenmasen recorded in the Paris illustrations is very wide and flat, appears somewhat lightweight, with a shallow draft, and is equipped with a pair of sculling oars, as well as 10 paddles, which are used much like western-style oars.

Tenmasen reconstruction at the Hakusan-maru Museum on Sado Island.

Tenmasen reconstruction at the Hakusan-maru Museum on Sado Island.

Tenmasen from Paris’s Souvenirs de Marine

The large number of paddles, or kai, that appears on the Paris drawing would seem to suggest that this boat was used to ferry crew to and from shore, as it would take at least 10 oarsmen to operate – the bulk of a ship’s crew.

The large sculling oar could have been used to steer. This boat would probably have been quite fast used this way. Using just the sculling oars, cargo could have been placed on the wide deck, and one or two oarsmen could have handled the boat.

Given that the only actual plans or measurements I have for a tenmasen are the Paris drawings, and the only actual 19th century evidence of tenmasen construction for a kitamaebune, I am fashioning mine from the Paris drawings.

I had to adjust my tenmasen somewhat to fit the model, as the tenmasen in the Paris drawings was over 36 feet long. It would stick out beyond the sides of the ship, but I’ve seen pictures of models of bezaisen with boats that did just that. Particularly when placed on top of the kappa. I settled for a 5% reduction in overall size, to reduce the length just a little. This still makes it about a 34 foot boat.

I tried a few different methods for building the boat, but at 5.75″ long, it was hard to build it in traditional wasen fashion. So, I ended up compromising, and carving the lower hull from lifts made of hinoki. This simplified the construction process greatly. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the construction process, as it was so experimental, and I was determined to keep building until I had something workable.

It wasn’t until I had gotten this far that I saw how shallow and wide this boat is.

This boat’s shallow draft is certainly made up for by is broad beam, so I expect it was able to carry a decent load of cargo. Its shallow draft must have allowed it to easily reach locations without the need for port facilities – ideal for a trade ship buying and selling goods on its trip up and down the coast.


The boat fits well on the kitamaebune, but I will need to make some kind of modification fo the ship to allow the boat to be tied down.

I have some details now to add to the tenmasen, including nail detail, loops for paddles (kai), and mounts for the sculling oars (ro).

More Details

In the meantime, I’m back to working on more copper plate (vinyl) details, with some custom pieces I’m now adding. Also, there are various tiny details I’m adding as I go, even though I’ve had to temporarily remove some details to make room for others. Unfortunately, I can’t really explain what some of the added details are, as I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the parts they were added to. But, I can share a couple photos.

One easy to describe detail is included in the kit. That is the sagari, which is a large, hanging tassel that serves a function similar to a figurehead on western-style ships.

On the Hakusan-maru, the sagari is a lot smaller.

But, if you look at the one mounted on the Michinoku-maru, a larger kitamaebune reconstruction that actually operated on the ocean for a time, it’s a bit closer in size.

Still bigger on my kitamaebune model, but I’m satisfied with it. I have noted the rope that runs around the sagari on both reconstructions. That’s something I want to add.

So, the next stage is to finish up the small details. I’m almost done with the application of vinyl details. Then, I’ll proceed with adding some little things to finish up the hull before I move on to detailing the sail and maybe adding a light mast at the bow.


Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 4

Uwakoberi, Koberi, and Iron Nails

So, with the koberi in place, I added the small deck at the bow and the ōtoko at the stern. I’m trying to find out the term for these small decks, which are more like steps. On the Hozugawa boats, the small deck at the bow is called omote-amaose. But, that’s an entirely different region, so I expect the term in Tokyo/Edo would be something quite different.

I also added the uwakoberi, which is what in the west, one would refer to as the gunwale or caprail. Each was made from a single piece of wood, wide enough to cover the edges of the hull planking and rub rail. I made mine a little wider, so that there is a slight overhang on the inboard side.

On tenmasen, the uwakoberi could be quite wide, serving as a walkway for the boatmen. I wanted to keep true to the Funakagami print, so I didn’t go too wide on this. Also, I had a hard enough time putting a bend in the wood. Any wider would have just made this task more difficult.

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 3

Construction of the model continues as I’ve been working out how I want to tackle some of the details on this 1/20-scale model. The major issues to deal with are the copper mortise covers and other copper detailing as well as the detailing of iron nails used to fasten the koberi, or rub rail, plus wire nails used to fasten the uwakoberi, or the caprails. Some of this is quite simple.

Below, I’ve posted a photo of Japanese modeler Kouichi Ohata’s Tenma-zukuri chabune. He has been helpful in the adjusting of the design of the drawings and has completed a model based on the drawings.

His model is built at 1/10 scale. I may eventually build one at this scale, but for now, I’m happy building mine in 1/20 scale, and I’m considering building other wasen of the Funakagami in 1/20 scale also. It saves on space!

Photo of Japanese modeler Kouichi Ohata’s 1/10-scale Tenma-zukuri chabune based on my plans, with a few modifications and added details.

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the building of a tenma-zukuri chabune from the Funakagami, and I stated that I was working on my model, but didn’t actually talk about building the model. The fact is that I wasn’t sure about what scale to build it at, given that a 1/10-scale model would end up being a little over two feet long, and I’m running low on space to display or store my models. So, I started a 1/20-scale model to see how I’d feel about the smaller scale.

I began by making a temporary internal frame. This would allow me to build the shiki, or bottom, and add the miyoshi, or stem, and the todate, or transom, at the proper angles. The same goes for the tana, or hull planks.

The longitudinal member of the framework is shaped directly from a copy of my plan drawing. The cross pieces are located at positions of the funabari, or beams, and are shaped according to my drawings.

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Building a Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船) – Part 1

I completed what I believe is a good final draft of the Tenma-zukuri Chabune from the Funakagami, and I’m now working on my model. However, it appears that I am already late to my own game. Model builder Kouichi Ohata has already completed his model in 1/10 scale, and he’s done a beautiful job with the boat as well as with all the added details!

Kouichi Ohata’s model

With the help of fellow modeler Kouichi Ohata and my mentor Douglas Brooks, I’ve gone through several revisions of the plans – seven major ones, so far.

Tenma-zukuri chabune, from the Funakagami.

The biggest difficult has been in analyzing the single wood-block print of this type. Compared to other boats in the Funakagami, this one has a very flat bottom, showing no real rise at the stern, which may be possible, but it’s really throwing people, as it seems very unusual for a Japanese style boat. Continue reading

Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船)- Plans Reconstruction Update

Work on the drawings of the Tenma-zukuri chabune continues. Over the past months, I’ve been making changes to my drawings of this wasen that I found in the the Funakagami. With the help of fellow modeler Kouichi Ohata and my mentor Douglas Brooks, I’ve gone through several revisions of the plans – seven major ones, so far.

Tenma-zukuri chabune, from the Funakagami.

The biggest difficult has been in analyzing the single wood-block print of this type. Compared to other boats in the Funakagami, this one has a very flat bottom, showing no real rise at the stern, which may be possible, but it’s really throwing people, as it seems very unusual for a Japanese style boat.

Also, if you look at the near side of the boat, particularly the bottom, it doesn’t appear to show any inward curvature. This threw me initially, as this is, again, pretty unusual. It’s not impossible, as the hozugawa boat I built doesn’t have any inward curvature at the stern either. But, looking more closely, at the far side, you can clearly detect inward curvature at the stern. The lack of curvature had bothered some people, so I’m glad I could spot some in the image to justify it on my drawings.

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Tenma-Zukuri Chabune (伝間造茶船)- Plans Reconstruction

Back in March of this year, I was digging through the images of the wasen recorded in the Funakagami. This, as you might recall, is a book put together in 1802 to identify the different boat types in use on the waterways of Edo for tax collection purposes.

There was an excellent short article that appeared in issue number 82 of The Rope News about a talk given in 2014 by Mr. Iinuma, who was the curatorial director of the Museum of Maritime Science in Tokyo. The talk focussed on the Funakagami and the boats described in it. Here’s a link to it if you haven’t seen it: The Rope News, No. 82

I’ve been looking over the 33 boats shown in the book, trying to find a subject that I felt I could model. Unfortunately, I’ve found no technical drawings for any of these boats. But, there was one that piqued my interest, as it’s name became more meaningful as my Japanese language skills improved. That boat was the Tenma-zukuri Chabune. Continue reading

Mr. Kazuyoshi Fujiwara’s Wasen Models

While I have been in touch with boatbuilder Douglas Brooks by email for close to 3 years, we met at the Nautical Research Guild’s annual conference in Mystic, CT, in the Fall of 2016, where he gave a talk on Japanese traditional boatbuilding and his apprenticeships.

At the conference, he had a pair of models that were built by his teacher in Japan, Mr. Fujiwara. These were beautifully made and I’ve been inspired by them.

The smaller one is a chokibune, an Edo period water taxi, built at 1/15 scale. The larger is a tenmasen, a cargo lighter, also Edo period, used for carrying goods to and from the large coastal transports, commonly called sengokubune. The tenmasen model is built at 1/10 scale.

The construction of the chokibune is described in detail in Douglas Brooks’s book, but the tenmasen was built by he and his teacher after he completed his apprenticeship and only a few photos of it appear in his book. But, the tenmasen is a fairly simple design, and should be easy to construct, and there are other similar wasen found in the funakagami.

I’m hoping to score some information from Mr. Brooks, but I don’t know how much he has in the way of notes and photos. Keeping my fingers crossed. Ω